Can Mild COVID Infections Trigger Mental Health Issues?

COVID-19 Mental Health

As COVID-19 variants cause a surge in mild cases, you may think getting sick won’t be so bad. People with the illness are complaining of physical symptoms such as headaches, body aches, congestion, cough, and fever. But even if COVID-19 symptoms resolve quickly, there is still a possibility of experiencing detrimental effects on mental health. Anxiousness, blue moods, and other issues may develop or worsen.

In some people, mild COVID infections have precipitated a sudden onset of significant neuropsychiatric illness. For example, a case study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry detailed how a 30-year-old man with mild COVID symptoms began experiencing delusions, extreme anxiety, paranoia, and violent outbursts. He also experienced hypersomnia—sleeping 22 hours a day—followed by a period of insomnia during which he slept only 3-4 hours a day. Other cases of sudden severe psychiatric symptoms in those with mild COVID cases were noted in JAMA Neurology.

However, the mental health issues in people who have had COVID can also develop more slowly and aren’t typically so severe. In some instances, you may not connect feelings of sadness or nervousness with the illness you had weeks or months earlier. This is why if you test positive for COVID, you need to be on the lookout for any changes in your mental health and address them early.

If you test positive for COVID, you need to be on the lookout for any changes in your mental health and address them early. Click To Tweet

COVID-19 EFFECTS ON MENTAL HEALTH

A wealth of emerging research shows that having COVID-19—even mild or moderate cases—can trigger or exacerbate mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, as well as other mental health or brain-related problems. These are some of the symptoms of long-haul COVID, which Amen Clinics calls COVID-Brain. Here’s a look at some of the evidence about the COVID-mental health connection.

A 2021 study in The Lancet analyzed data from 236,379 people diagnosed with COVID-19 and found that 34% of people developed psychiatric or neurological problems within 6 months following infection. The most common mental health issues included the following:

An earlier study in The Lancet found that 20% of COVID-19 patients who had no history of mental illness developed a psychiatric issue within 3 months of getting diagnosed with the disease.

Add these findings to a 2020 study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease showing that long-term consequences of COVID-19 may include depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), psychosis, insomnia, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as brain-related issues such as memory loss, poor attention, mild cognitive impairment, and accelerated brain aging.

There is another link between COVID-19 and mental health. An additional 2021 study in The Lancet found that a commonly used antidepressant, fluvoxamine, may reduce the risk of severe disease from COVID-19. Fluvoxamine is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which has anti-inflammatory properties and may have anti-viral effects.

COVID-19 AND THE EMOTIONAL BRAIN

Brain SPECT imaging scans of patients at Amen Clinics reveal that COVID-19 can contribute to changes in brain activity. SPECT is a functional brain imaging technique that measures blood flow and activity in the brain. SPECT scans of Amen Clinics patients show elevated activity in the limbic system, which is considered the brain’s emotional center.

The limbic system is the part of the brain that colors our emotions and is involved with bonding, nesting, feeding, sexuality, and emotions. Heightened activity in the limbic system is associated with an increased risk of sadness, negative thinking, sleep problems, and clinical depression.

OVERCOMING POST-COVID MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES

Anyone who is experiencing the onset or worsening of anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues post-COVID should seek professional help. Brain SPECT imaging, which shows activity patterns in the brain, can help provide answers regarding mental health problems. In addition, functional or integrative medicine providers can investigate root causes of anxiety and depressive symptoms to determine if issues such as chronic infections or systemic inflammation may be contributing to symptoms.

In addition to getting professional help, there are many things you can do to boost mental health post-COVID. Here are 5 simple at-home strategies to boost moods and calm anxious minds:

  • Ditch the sugar. The sweet stuff increases inflammation, which may be a contributor to mental health issues.
  • Stay away from alcohol. Booze is pro-inflammatory and can exacerbate depressive symptoms ad fatigue.
  • Fuel your mind with healthful foods. Focus on organic produce, antibiotic-free and hormone-free lean protein, and good fats such as avocados and nuts.
  • Get moving. Physical activity can lift your mood and exercises like yoga can relax your mind.
  • Promote good sleep hygiene. Create a sleep schedule and stick to it. Switch off your electronic gadgets at least 1 hour before you go to bed and make sure your room is cool and dark.

COVID-Brain and the mental health issues associated with it can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

18 Comments »

  1. It would be nice if insurance covered this but, just like therapy and a lot of other specialty services, I am sure this is unaffordable for the average family. Please advise if I’m wrong as I am struggling with my 12 year old who had Covid a few months ago- he’s a different person and I never connected it to having Covid. We are desperate for help.

    Comment by Aprille Coursin — February 18, 2022 @ 4:38 AM

  2. I have a friend who has had a stroke a few years ago & has problems with rembering things like her kids growing up & has very short memory is there any hope / help you can do????

    Comment by Collins Linda — February 18, 2022 @ 5:31 AM

  3. This is so helpful. Dr. Paik who is amazing, talked to me about this as well as my game plan moving forward from my scans and I feel more in control of my health for the first time in a long time. I now am more comited than ever to not only protect me and others from Covid-19 but importantly sticking to the Amen way of getting and staying healthy- thank you!

    Comment by Tom Calkusic — February 18, 2022 @ 6:15 AM

  4. Thank you for this helpful article. My daughter, 38, my husband, 73 and I, 68 recently had covid, each 2 days apart and were able to stay at home. We didn’t have heart or breathing problems but did each experience terrible head congestion, brain fog, anxiety, anger, an outside the body watching oneself be sick experience, PTSD symptoms triggered, mood disorder. We felt for a time that we didn’t know if we were coming or going. Because of his old PTSD symptoms being triggered, my husband struggled with discerning reality for a few days. That was disconcerting to say the least. With help from our two older daughters and the Lord, we all are slowly returning to our usual lives; so many people haven’t had that chance.

    Comment by Sally Bird — February 18, 2022 @ 6:37 AM

  5. I truly believe that the fear induced by the powers-that-be is the reason most people are suffering from emotional and cognitive problems after COVID. They’ve been scared to death – and fear is a powerful mental health destroyer. I don’t think it’s the virus.

    Comment by Kate — February 18, 2022 @ 6:59 AM

  6. This is a question, rather than a comment. Is there any evidence that the COVID vaccine can trigger mental health issues, particularly with people who have had a psychotic episode in the past?

    Comment by Shawn Cribari — February 18, 2022 @ 7:05 AM

  7. I have had Covid-brain for over a year. Some cognitive issues have resolved themselves. I am still experiencing short term memory loss and comprehension issues. I am currently on an anti-depression medication.

    Comment by Deborah St.Hilaire — February 18, 2022 @ 8:46 AM

  8. My husband and I both contacted Omicron January 20 this year. We were VERY sick! Body aches, headaches, congestion, coughing and lots and lots of fatigue. He is 99 years old and I am 81 recently. We have both improved tremendously in the past 3 weeks. However, I noticed that I would awaken each morning with a terrible anxiety in my stomach. I had to force myself to drink water and eat like 1/2 a banana to get myself started and then proceed from there. I cried a lot and prayed and prayed because I knew without God I would not be OK. Slowly with praying Bible verses from Psalms and eating right and drinking lots of water and doing exactly what was needed, I have overcome the horrible anxious feeling. This feeling plagued me until a week ago when I just did what was needed in our household and made myself go out in my car and drive to the store, etc. This anxious feeling has gradually gone away. We eat very healthy food and try to have a type of schedule of sleep, wake, nap, sun, exercise, etc and it seems to work. However I notice I do not have the control of my sensitive emotions as much as I used to. I cry easily and feel extreme desire to let my children and loved ones know I care about them. Do you think this is a residule of the Covid and that it will settle down eventually? thank you for your posting this article.

    Comment by Carolyn Headrick-Shook — February 18, 2022 @ 11:35 AM

  9. i’ve been aware of these same issues as a result of other illnesses such as strep. are you aware of pans/pandas? these children’s illnesses have been ignored and scoffed at by the medical profession, now as a result of covid adults are experiencing similiar symptoms to what we’ve been trying to get help for for many years.

    Comment by pat womble — February 18, 2022 @ 12:03 PM

  10. Hello Aprille, thank you for reaching out. We would be happy to contact you directly with more information regarding scheduling an appointment for your son. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 18, 2022 @ 12:10 PM

  11. does covid vaccine effect epilepsy?

    Comment by Faye — February 18, 2022 @ 2:56 PM

  12. Hello Collins Linda, thank you for reaching out. Amen Clinics currently has 9 locations: https://amenclinics.com/locations/. For more information about scheduling, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 18, 2022 @ 3:47 PM

  13. Please make this more affordable the average person can’t afford it, I had covid and my anxiety has gotten worse I wish I can afford to get a scan.

    Comment by Valerie — February 18, 2022 @ 3:49 PM

  14. Have you seen people with new onset or worsening anxiety depression and insomnia following the COVID vaccine? Started about a month after the vaccine

    Comment by Stephanie Baker — February 19, 2022 @ 6:43 PM

  15. My wife and I both had Covid in January . We had been taking Zinc, C, D3, Quercetin with Bromelain and other supplements and I feel that these probably helped lessen the severity of the Covid symptoms. My wife experienced dizziness and fell, breaking her left foot requiring hospitalization and surgery. Now she is at an extended care facility and having memory and emotional problems that seem to be pretty serious. I experienced severe confusion, depression, and memory issues also, but since I was not in a controlled hospital environment, I just doubled up on my vitamins and zinc and took DMAE which is supposed to help the production of neurotransmitters in the brain and I felt like I got pretty much back to normal, mind wise, within about 2 weeks. I cannot help but believe that others might also benefit from taking DMAE or other supplements. Unfortunately the extended care facility has not approved the things I take myself, for use by my wife.

    Comment by Charles T. Smith — February 20, 2022 @ 8:43 AM

  16. I got covid this January. Believe it or not, it worked in reverse for me. I detached emotionally from a covert narcissist who ended the relationship with me. I was in emotional hell during covid because of it. But once covid was over,I slowly grasped who I was dealing with and was finally able to walk away. I’m much more clear headed about it now. But I will admit, I was in an extremely dark place mentally during covid. Happy to be free of both now!

    Comment by April — February 20, 2022 @ 4:51 PM

  17. I had had two strokes and a brain aneurysm and then severe COVID, in the hospital for two weeks and wasn’t expected to get out of the hospital. Yeah, the mental impact on top of what I already had, plus severe issues from the broken arm that was a result of COVID (passing out and falling on hardwood floor, which is how I found out I had COVID), there is a cluster of issues. I am looking forward to when I can afford to schedule scans and get some ideas for help!

    Comment by Catherine — March 9, 2022 @ 7:35 PM

  18. Was just wondering if any supplements can be suggested to help to deal with the brain symptoms after Covid. I had it in October and now I’m dealing with terrible anxiety, brain fog and just feeling lousy, not so much physically but mentally. I too am on a fixed income and can’t afford a SPECT scan. Thank you!

    Comment by Pam Pope — April 20, 2022 @ 9:26 AM

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